What if I told you that you could get an immediate 25 percent increase in your income— just for asking?
Sounds too good to be true, but that’s one of the takeaways from one of the most powerful books on negotiation I’ve read: Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Negotiation — and Positive Strategies for Change by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever.
Don’t let the title fool you; this thoroughly researched guide to general differences in how men and women negotiate is equally applicable to either sex. And though it’s a bit dense reading at times (there are a full 35 pages of annotations and references), their findings are clear:
- If you seem to come up short in negotiations, it may just because you set a lower initial goal than your opponent.
- Many times, the desire to maintain a positive relationships can outweigh the desire to “win” in the negotiation.
- If you fear the discomfort of the actual negotiation, you’re more likely to simply accept the first offer and not try to position yourself for more.
- There’s one case when females are as ruthless (and successful) as men: When they’re negotiating on someone else’s behalf.
- The main reason many people don’t get more — more money, more connections, more concessions, whatever — is simple: THEY DON’T ASK.
The authors spend much of the book sharing the research and studies that have led them to these conclusions… but what’s more interesting to me is how they suggest overcoming them. Their answers to these perceived shortfalls are quite simple:
- Set a higher goal. Setting a higher goal directly related to achieving a higher result. Whatever your end goals, you can achieve more in a negotiation if you walk in with a more ambitious goal. “Whatever they want, pitching their goals higher helps them focus more, hold their ground, and come away with more,” the authors write.
- Realize that you can disagree and still be friends. Sensitive people can avoid any type of conflict for fear it will permanently damage their relationships, while others (stereotypically, men) seem to have an easier time coming in conflict, and even arguing, and then moving on. The solution, say Babcock and Laschever, is first, to recognize that you might have dual objectives in a negotiation, what they call “relationship goals” and “issue goals.” Second, reframe the interaction and view the interaction not as a win-lose competition, but as a chance to share positions and understand each other better.
- Don’t overplay the negative aspects of negotiation. People play up the discomfort and fear they feel at the idea of negotiating, to the point where they avoid it at all costs. Instead, see it as a chance to explore your positions and find common ground. If you are particularly anxious about negotiation, you can try role playing, working with a coach, or even taking classes to increase your comfort level.
- Play “Let’s Pretend.” If you have trouble negotiating on your own behalf, pretend you’re negotiating for a friend. Or think about what getting more (more money, more leverage, whatever) will help you assist other people. Envisioning a team you’re working for will help you be more effective.
- Finally, just ASK. Over and over, it’s been shown that just by asking for more, you’ll get more. Repeatedly asking without having attachment to the outcome is a great practice. Ask for small things (“can you give me a refill on this soda?”) and big things (“can you upgrade our room?”), when you don’t even care and when you do. It will soon become a habit. And while you won’t ALWAYS get a “Yes,” you’ll get one enough of the time to show that it’s worth the momentary discomfort of putting yourself in the position of being rejected.
The biggest lesson I learned from this book is that small movements can have big results, particularly when compounded over time. A small percentage difference in starting salaries generates a huge different in income levels in a decade or two. So give yourself a head start, and start asking!
Lain Ehmann of #FastLain reads over 150 books a year, most of them business books or biographies. As a communication conversion strategist, she works with high-level entrepreneurs to create crystal-clear messaging and content that reaches their audience at the right time, in the right way. Find out more here.